Death Valley Road Trip Hiking Itineraries!

3, 7, and 10 Day Hiking Itineraries for Death Valley National Park. California
3, 7, and 10 Day Hiking Itineraries for Death Valley National Park! Counter-clockwise from upper left: Fall Canyon, Darwin Falls, Badwater Salt Flats, Keane Wonder Mine, and Ibex Dunes

Death Valley is a spectacular area to spend a few days in the desert!  The park is big enough to hide hidden gems and limit crowds, but it also has popular destinations that are very worth visiting.  I’ve visited Death Valley about six times since 2001, so I thought I’d put together a list of my favorite hikes in the form of hiking itineraries for 3 days, 7 days, or 10 days.  Just remember that you’ll want to visit Death Valley in the fall, winter, or spring – May-October 100+F in the shade!

3 Day Hiking Itinerary to Death Valley

3 Day Hiking Itinerary Map for Death Valley National Park, California
3 Day Hiking Itinerary Map

Day 1 – Zabriskie Point, etc., and Badwater Flats

Catch sunrise at Zabriskie Point, then take the Badlands Trail down to the Golden Canyon Trail (add on the Red Cathedral if you wish – add 0.8 miles RT) and down to the Golden Canyon Parking Area.  For a shorter trail, have a shuttle vehicle here.  For a longer hike, loop back to Zabriskie Point via Gower Gulch.

Visit the Badwater Basin Trailhead in the later afternoon.  Hike as far as you wish on the salt flats.

Stay in Furnace Creek or Stovepipe Wells.

Day 1 Total Miles: 3.3-6.8 miles

Manly Beacon from Zabriskie Point at sunrise, Death Valley National Park, California
Manly Beacon from Zabriskie Point at sunrise

Day 2 – Harmony Borax Works, Keane Wonder, and Mesquite Sand Dunes

Start the day at the Harmony Borax Works, then drive up to the Keane Wonder Trailhead.  If you don’t want to hike much, just walk up to the Keane Wonder Mill.  But for the full experience, go all of the way up to the top of the aerial tramway.

If you have extra time, go to Stovepipe Wells and enjoy wandering the Mesquite Sand Dunes – sunset on the dunes is spectacular!

Stay in Furnace Creek or Stovepipe Wells.

Day 2 Total Miles: 1.8-5.1 miles

Keane Wonder Mill, Death Valley National Park, California
Keane Wonder Mill

Day 3 – Mosaic Canyon (or Grotto Canyon) and Darwin Falls

Begin the day at either Mosaic Canyon or Grotto Canyon, both located near Stovepipe Wells.  Mosaic Canyon is much easier and just as scenic, but Grotto Canyon offers a fun challenge and a bit of seclusion for those who don’t mind some Class 3 to Class 4 scrambling (or find the bypass trails).

In the afternoon, drive up to the Darwin Falls Trailhead to hike to a perennial waterfall in the desert.

Day 3 Total Miles: 5.0-6.2 miles

Darwin Falls

7 Day Hiking Itinerary to Death Valley

7 Day Hiking Itinerary Map for Death Valley National Park, California
7 Day Hiking Itinerary Map

Day 1 – Zabriskie Point, Golden Canyon, and Gower Gulch

Catch sunrise at Zabriskie Point, then take the Badlands Trail down to the Golden Canyon Trail (add on the Red Cathedral if you wish – add 0.8 miles RT) and down to the Golden Canyon Parking Area.  For a shorter trail, have a shuttle vehicle here.  For a longer hike, loop back to Zabriskie Point via Gower Gulch.

Stay in Furnace Creek or Stovepipe Wells.

Day 1 Total Miles: 3.1-6.6 miles

Hiking the Badlands Trail down into the badlands below Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California
Hiking the Badlands Trail down into the badlands below Zabriskie Point

Day 2 – Harmony Borax Works, Keane Wonder, and Mesquite Sand Dunes

Start the day at the Harmony Borax Works, then drive up to the Keane Wonder Trailhead.  If you don’t want to hike much, just walk up to the Keane Wonder Mill.  But for the full experience, go all of the way up to the top of the aerial tramway.

If you have extra time, go to Stovepipe Wells and enjoy wandering the Mesquite Sand Dunes – sunset on the dunes is spectacular!

Stay in Furnace Creek (preferred) or Stovepipe Wells.

Day 2 Total Miles: 1.8-5.1 miles

Old wagons at the Harmony Borax Works, Death Valley National Park, California
Old wagons at the Harmony Borax Works. PC Mario RM, CC-BY-SA 2.0

Day 3 – Badwater Flats & Sidewinder Canyon

Badwater Flats is spectacular in the early morning, though the trailhead may still be in shadow.  Hike as far as you wish on the flats, then head down to Sidewinder Canyon.  Explore as many of the slots as time and energy allow.

Stay in Furnace Creek (preferred) or Stovepipe Wells

Day 3 Total Miles: 6.6+ miles

Hiking up one of the slots in Sidewinder Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California
Hiking up one of the slots in Sidewinder Canyon

Day 4 – 20 Mule Team, Dante’s View, Natural Bridge, & Artist Pallet

Catch 20 Mule Team in the early morning for outstanding views.  You can just drive the scenic drive, or you can explore a bit up 20 Mule Team Canyon.  Then drive up to Dante’s View for great morning views down on Death Valley – hike all the way out to Coffin Peak if you wish.  Drive back down into the valley to hike to either the Natural Bridge or Desolation Canyon.  Finish off the day with golden-hour views on the Artist Pallett Scenic Drive.

Stay in Furnace Creek or Stovepipe Wells.

Day 4 Total Miles: 2.0-10.5 miles

Early morning along the 20 Mule Team Scenic Drive, Death Valley National Park, California
Early morning along the 20 Mule Team Scenic Drive

Day 5 – Fall Canyon

Fall Canyon is pretty close to a full-day hike, especially if you go into its upper reaches.  But if you finish it and want some extra miles, check out the Ubehebe Crater.

Stay in Furnace Creek or Stovepipe Wells (preferred).

Day 5 Total Miles: 6.8-10 miles

Hiking up Fall Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California
Hiking up Fall Canyon

Day 6 – Mosaic Canyon (or Grotto Canyon) and Darwin Falls

Begin the day at either Mosaic Canyon or Grotto Canyon, both located near Stovepipe Wells.  Mosaic Canyon is much easier and just as scenic, but Grotto Canyon offers a fun challenge and a bit of seclusion for those who don’t mind some Class 3 to Class 4 scrambling (or find the bypass trails).

In the afternoon, drive up to the Darwin Falls Trailhead to hike to a perennial waterfall in the desert.

Stay in Panamint Springs or Stovepipe Wells (preferred).

Day 6 Total Miles: 5.0-6.2 miles

Grotto Canyon

Day 7 – Panamint Mountains or Ubehebe Crater/Titus Canyon

Your itinerary for Day 7 will be determined by the time of year you’re hiking.  If there isn’t too much snow on the Panamint Mountains (usually May-December), you can do Option 1.  Otherwise, you’ll need to do Option 2.  Ask at the visitor center for Telescope Peak or Wildrose Peak trail conditions – they’ll be able to tell you whether the mountains are hikable.

Option 1: Hike Telescope Peak.  Or if you’re just not feeling up to that (or there’s still too much snow on the peak!) hike to Wildrose Peak instead.

Option 2: Drive up to the Ubehebe Crater and hike around the rim and even down to the bottom if you feel up to the climb back out.  Finish off the day hiking up the Titus Canyon Narrows.

Day 7 Total Miles: 6-13.2 miles

China Lake from Telescope Peak, Death Valley National Park, California
China Lake from Telescope Peak

10 Day Hiking Itinerary to Death Valley

Days 1-7 – See the 7 Day Hiking Itinerary

The only change is to skip Badwater on your way down to Sidewinder Canyon on Day 3.

Day 8 – Walk Across Badwater

It’s not an easy hike, but trekking either across Badwater Flats or to the literal Lowest Point in North America is fun and very scenic!  It also gives you bragging rights.

Stay in Furnace Creek or Stovepipe Springs.

Day 8 Total Miles: 7.2-12.9 miles

The sign says, "-282 Feet Below Sea Level Lowest Point in North America."  Badwater Flats, Death Valley National Park, California
The sign says, “-282 Feet Below Sea Level Lowest Point in North America.”

Day 9 – Keane Wonder Spring and John Cyty’s Mill

The trailhead the Keane Wonder Spring is the same as for the Keane Wonder Mine, but the hike goes in a different direction entirely and is much easier than the steep trail to the mine area.  Enjoy the runoff from a desert spring and the ruins of an old mining area.  For even more views, hike up toward the Big Bell Extension.

Stay in Furnace Creek or Shoshone, NV.

Day 9 Total Miles: 3.6-7.1 miles

A small spring near John Cyty's Cabin. Death Valley National Park, California
A small spring near John Cyty’s Cabin

Day 10 – Saratoga Spring and Ibex Dunes

The road to Ibex Dunes is high clearance only – the Saratoga Springs Road is 4×4 only when the Amargosa River is flowing and high clearance the rest of the year.  Saratoga Springs is a very short walk up to overlook the springs and spectacular views of Death Valley; the Ibex Dunes requires an off-trail trek to reach the dunes.

Day 10 Total Miles: 4.2 miles

Footprints on the Ibex Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California
Footprints on the Ibex Dunes

Other Details about Death Valley National Park

The park charges a $30/vehicle entrance fee.  America the Beautiful Passes and Death Valley Annual Passes are accepted.

Backcountry Camping is allowed – so technically you don’t have to stay in a campground unless you want to. (You do, however, have to follow the backcountry camping rules.)

Sunset behind the palms at Furnace Creek, Death Valley National Park, California
Sunset behind the palms at Furnace Creek

Death Valley is extremely hot and dry.  Don’t try any of these itineraries from May to October.  Be sure to bring plenty of water and food with you – don’t want to become a statistic!

Water is most readily available in Furnace Creek Visitor Center, though you can also get water in Stovepipe Wells, Mesquite Campground, Panamint Spring, and Wildrose Campground.

Pets are not allowed except on roads and in campgrounds.

Ubehebe Crater, Death Valley National Park, California
Ubehebe Crater. PC Mitchell Weinstock, CC-BY-ND 2.0

This Week’s Featured Product!

If you would like even more adventures in Death Valley – or just a trail guide to carry with you – this is a good choice.  With maps, trail descriptions, history, and more, it’s a great resource.